POLITICS

Nebraska to Provide Prenatal Care to Undocumented Immigrants

FLORIDA CITY, FL- OCTOBER 16:  Yailin Melissa Turcios, who was about 20 minutes prior, lies in the arms of her mother, Rosa Turcios, on a bed at the Birthing Center of South Florida October 16, 2006 in Florida City, Florida. This week the population of the United States will reach 300 million people. The excess of U.S. births over deaths accounted for about 1.7 million new Americans between 2004 and 2005, according to official figures. Another 1 million were added by immigration. The United States will remain the world's third most populous country after China and India.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FLORIDA CITY, FL- OCTOBER 16: Yailin Melissa Turcios, who was about 20 minutes prior, lies in the arms of her mother, Rosa Turcios, on a bed at the Birthing Center of South Florida October 16, 2006 in Florida City, Florida. This week the population of the United States will reach 300 million people. The excess of U.S. births over deaths accounted for about 1.7 million new Americans between 2004 and 2005, according to official figures. Another 1 million were added by immigration. The United States will remain the world's third most populous country after China and India. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

Forced to choose which social issue troubled them the most, abortion or illegal immigration, conservative Nebraska lawmakers chose abortion.  

The state legislature voted Wednesday to restore taxpayer-funded prenatal care benefits for undocumented immigrants, despite the objections of Gov. Dave Heineman.

Lawmakers overrode the Republican governor's veto Wednesday on the final day of the session. Heineman argued the state should not spend tax dollars to provide care to women who are in the country illegally.

“Unless you and the Legislature reverse course, the legacy of this session will be one in which illegals were given preferential treatment over legal Nebraska citizens,” Heineman said earlier this month.

The state’s Republican Speaker of the House, Mike Flood, said the immigration concern is important but trumped by the health concerns for unborn children who lack access to prenatal vitamins, ultrasounds, doctors and nurses. He said medical data do not support the notion that pregnant illegal immigrants would move to a state for prenatal care.

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Bill supporters and medical experts say a lack of prenatal care can lead to birth complications and developmental problems that cost the state far more than the expense of providing care to women.

The new law extends coverage to an estimated 1,162 fetuses each year at a cost of $650,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal tax dollars.

About 870 undocumented immigrants and 750 legal residents lost coverage in 2010, when the federal government ordered Nebraska to stop offering benefits through Medicaid. The bill would allow coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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